At last, this week, I visited my 50th state. If you glance at the photo to the left of this blog, you will see that it took quite a long time – nearly three quarters of a century.
The funny thing is, I visited my 47th state – Hawaii – before I turned forty. I took my kids there after flying between New York and Brazil on business, and discovering that I had the necessary sitzfleisch to make it from New York to Honolulu.
The flight to Honolulu was not a non-stop. We had a two-hour layover in Los Angeles. The flight crew tried to get my sons and me to go into the waiting room during the layover, but we refused. Every other passenger obediently did as asked.
We had paid a huge amount of money for our seats – probably more than they would cost today – and we couldn’t see the appeal of getting off the plane and sitting on hard, plastic seats next to sweaty, ill-natured travelers.
The crew wanted us off the plane so that they could get off the plane themselves. It seems there was a regulation that required at least two of them to remain on board as long as any civilians were on board, or perhaps I should say sheep, which was what flight attendants would call their passengers in sub rosa conversations.
I suppose, judging from the customary behavior of flight crews, that they wanted to indulge in mating rituals of some kind, or simply re-medicate themselves. Nowadays a flight crew could simply summon a TSA goon and have us thrown off the plane, upside down. But back then, having paid for our seats, we had the right to sit in them until we reached Hawaii.
After Hawaii, twenty-nine years passed before I added another state. The states that remained were North Dakota, Kentucky and Arkansas. All of them have the distinction of not being on the way to anything, so I hadn’t gone there in the course of normal travels.
Finally, in 2006, I hauled one of my daughters – I had a new set of kids by then -- on a synthetic visit to the Dakotas. South Dakota boasts many more attractions than North Dakota, but I had been to South Dakota as early as 1954. We did find something worth seeing in North Dakota, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which is home to some mildly interesting scenery and a lot of bison. We stayed in the town of Medora, which dates way back and had ceased to exist for a long time, but was finally restored some years ago, after the manner of Williamsburg, Virginia.
My visit to Kentucky was kind of a cheat. I had to fly from the West Coast to South Carolina, so I arranged to change planes en route at the Cincinnati Airport, which oddly enough happens to be in neighboring Kentucky. The interior of the Cincinnati airport is my total exposure to Kentucky.
Come to think of it, my visit to Alabama, which took place in 1966, also was a cheat. I happened to be in western Georgia on business, so I hopped in a rental car, drove a few yards across the state line into Phenix City, once known as the sin city of the South, and then back to the safety of Georgia.
Finally, this week, I made a concerted effort to drive to Arkansas, and I succeeded. I didn’t want my headstone to read: “He visited forty-nine states.” Now it can truthfully read “He visited fifty states.” Or it can display the usual garbage about “beloved father, brother, cousin…” You know the drill.
Now, according to President Obama, I have just seven states left to visit. I confess that I am at a loss to determine what they are called, or where they are. Some mean-spirited partisans have suggested that Obama lived abroad too long, and never did learn how many states there are among the United States.
I prefer to believe that Obama is the all-knowing, godlike figure that his supporters say he is, and that when he referred to “all fifty-seven states” he was inadvertently dropping a hint about his secret plans for annexing territory and granting statehood.
If I were president, I am not sure I could find as many as seven places that I would care to annex to our country, so I can only guess at Obama’s intentions. Venezuela? Cuba? They seem to be his type. I would be happy to annex Paris, because I like the Left Bank and Carla Bruni quite a lot, but I don’t think that is in the offing.
Perhaps Obama wants to annex the People’s Republic of China. Our relationship with that cash-rich country would make the combination a natural financially, but I don’t think we want to give the ChiComs any such ideas, because we might end up being annexed by them instead. Some would argue that thanks to Obama’s free-spending ways, this already is almost a fait accompli.